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The Time I Was a Social Outcast

Ed Smith | 15 Jan 2013 18:00
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I can remember at university watching my friends and flatmates dress up, hit the town and sleep with some gorgeous stranger on a weekly basis, effortlessly gliding from one vagina to another. And like the eager dork that I am, I tried to tag along, pulling on my best shirt and practicing lines in the mirror before hitting the nightclubs. But of course, I had no luck. No matter how much I tried to emulate the other students, I could never get to grips with what seemed like the simple routine of approach, make conversation, see what happens. I'd just freeze up, or stand there looking miserable, or say something weird, before skulking back home to eat a large Dominos while watching old episodes of Peep Show.

That's what Seduce Me made me feel like. Reading forums and Twitter, I could see other people getting the hang of this card game and making headway with the ladies, but for me, never the romantic, it was just as bewildering as real flirting and the game hurt my feelings.

The character design wasn't helping, either. Consistently unsexed men and women will know how, when you're not getting any, the world can seem cruel and taunting. Everywhere you look - magazines, television, nightspots - are reminders that there are people out there, attractive people, boning away like rabbits on shore leave. And you ain't one of them. It's a kind of sociopathic impulse where, after enough time, you set up a mental apartheid between yourself, a poorly, celibate loser, and them, the bonking masses that you're not a part of.

Seduce Me really piles that feeling on. As a bespoke sex-game, its characters are not only implausibly gorgeous, they're always at it, leaping on top of one another with the slightest double entendre or hint of boob. It's an exaggerated, hyperbolic sexual Eden, much like I perceived my university campus to be, and when I couldn't figure out how to join in the fun, it made me tremendously upset.
And I mean, tears; I mean, asking my girlfriend to come round to give me a hug and assure me that I'm not a wobbling mass of hairy unsexy - I am, to her at least, attractive. It was an extremely strong and negative reaction, completely at odds with the game's alluring set-up, that came from my own ham-fisted play style and troubled background. And the more I thought about it, I loved it.

Seduce Me made me feel awful. It made me feel vulnerable, upset, disempowered and ugly. And although that was all very unpleasant, it was unlike anything I'd experienced with a computer game before. I'm used to muscular action heroes and sultry love interests, kill streaks and trophies - for a game to outright tell me that "no-one likes you" was incredibly refreshing.

It's rare that a game taps into my personality like that. It happened once with Heavy Rain, during all the grey, struggling single dad sequences, but the typical gamer diet of explosive kill orgies doesn't really appeal to my mental insecurities. What Seduce Me demonstrates is games' capacity to use their audience as a storytelling device; the combination of my unfortunate history with women and impatience for card games created an entirely unique experience of Seduce Me, completely separate from the game's intentions, but a product of its ideas nonetheless.

I love that about videogames. I love how they invite you to test their boundaries and then reward you with an experience all of your own. In some cases, that means putting on a fake moustache nuking Steelport; in others, like Seduce Me, it means having your spirits crushed by a slightly weird drawing who, as it turns out, isn't even that good in bed.

Edward Smith is a journalist based in London. He covers games for IBTimes UK and says hilarious things on Twitter all the time @mostsincerelyed.

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